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Journalist ordered released on bail

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A Pakistani journalist, detained in custody since mid-December on charges of sedition and conspiracy, was ordered released on bail on Saturday, according to his lawyer.

“Bail was ordered for Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, day before yesterday,” Habib Tahir, a counsel for the journalist, told IRIN from Quetta, the capital of the south-western province of Baluchistan, which borders neighbouring Afghanistan.

Rizvi was arrested, along with French journalists Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau of the weekly L’Express, in mid-December. The two foreign journalists were charged with violating their visas and visiting the Quetta region without permission and were eventually allowed bail within three weeks of their arrest. They left for France the same day.

However, Rizvi, a local journalist who had been assisting Epstein and Guilloteau as an interpreter/fixer, faced more serious charges of sedition and conspiracy, and remained in jail.

A special anti-terrorist court on Saturday ordered Rizvi’s release on 200,000 Pakistan Rupees (US $3,622.86) bail, but the journalist had to wait until Monday to be released from custody because the paperwork and the surety could not be arranged in time, Tahir said.

“[Rizvi’s] brother was in court today [to deposit the surety] so, I think, he must be released by now,” Tahir maintained.

Welcoming the decision, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), the international journalists-rights watchdog, said “an injustice had been corrected.”

“A respected Pakistani journalist was imprisoned while his two French colleagues were only sentenced to a fine,” an RSF media release said.

“Now we ask you to consider dropping the case against him,” the organisation said, according to the media release, in a letter to the Pakistani interior minister.

The RSF media statement said more than 3,000 journalists and media workers worldwide had signed a petition drawn up by a committee campaigning for Rizvi’s release.

Once freed from jail, Rizvi will be allowed to live in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, but will have to attend regular hearings in Quetta, the first of which, Tahir said, was in mid-April.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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